It’s the Pits: Fresno Unified May Have Drastically Overpaid for Fruit and Vegetables
A longtime produce supplier for the Fresno Unified School District says he’s found invoices indicating that the district overpaid for some of its produce by as much as hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
David Miller of Fresno Produce began reviewing the invoices after losing out to another supplier who offered lower prices on certain items. He received an anonymous tip flagging invoices that showed Fresno Unified was being charged more than what the new supplier had promised.
The overcharges only amounted to a few cents extra, mostly for fruits like peaches and nectarines. But with thousands of pieces purchased for 57 elementary schools, the discrepancies add up. In one case, Miller said Olmos Elementary had paid $1,034 more than the bid agreement called for during 2015.
The school district says it is currently reviewing Miller’s claims. So far it hasn’t identified any glaring problems, but it’s hindered by a lack of spreadsheet data and a reliance on paper invoices. In the future, officials said they will ensure that any bidders can provide electronic billing so that they can keep better track of purchases and prices.
The head of the supplier that allegedly overcharged the district, 1st Quality Produce, also takes issue with Miller’s claims. CEO Mike Kahaian says certain fruits or vegetables could end up costing slightly more than the bid price for a variety of reasons, including weather issues.
There’s another issue at play. The produce is being served as part of the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables program and funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To keep its grant, the district must spend the entirety of the money in a single year, said Executive Director of Purchasing Paul Rosencrans. Miller says he understands that, but insists it’s no reason to throw away good funds.
“Be smart about it," he told the Fresno Bee. Buy raspberries or blueberries, which are expensive."